Anchorage part of statewide effort to curb tobacco use in young adults

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - The Municipality of Anchorage and local coalitions are working to regulate the retail sale of tobacco and tobacco products while educating the public on the harmful health impacts associated with consumption of those products.

Charlie Daniels is the director of Healthy Voices Healthy Choices, an Anchorage coalition working to limit access to alcohol, drugs and tobacco products by youth and young adults.

“The average age of first use of nicotine is about 12.8, so we’re trying to curb that,” Daniels said. “We’re trying to catch youth early, and we’re trying to catch adults earlier.”

Healthy Voices Healthy Choices held two annual awareness-raising events at the Alaska Native Heritage Center over the weekend – Daniels said both were funded through Tobacco Prevention and Control grant money from the Alaska Department of Health and Human Services.

The 7th Annual Father-Daughter Ball was on April 12, and the Mother-Son Gala was on April 13. Daniels said participation at these educational family events nearly doubled since 2018 – 150 fathers came to this year’s ball, compared to just over 60 last year. Daniels said this increased participation shows that Anchorage families are joining the city’s efforts to curb the negative health impacts of tobacco.

Marge Stoneking, executive director of the American Lung Association's Alaska branch, testified in favor of raising the minimum tobacco purchasing age from 19 to 21 at the Anchorage Assembly’s hearing April 9.

Stoneking cited the National Academy of Medicine in her testimony, saying it found that increasing the minimum age of sale for tobacco products to at least 21 will significantly reduce youth tobacco use and, "save thousands of lives,” Stoneking said.

Anchorage resident Mark Marion testified against the ordinance to change the legal purchasing age.

“This is a bad idea,” Marion said. “If the rest of the state is not doing it to the age of 21, then this will basically give anybody who is age from 19 to 21 to drive 45, 60 miles to go get a pack of smokes. And don’t tell me that won’t happen, because it will.”

Other Anchorage Assembly proposals regarding tobacco regulations include:

- An ordinance amending Anchorage Municipal Code to include electronic smoking products containing nicotine within the prohibitions on possession and sales of tobacco products (public hearing scheduled for June 4)
- An ordinance raising the minimum legal age to purchase cigarettes and tobacco products within the Municipality from 19 to 21 years of age (public hearing scheduled for June 4)
- An ordinance that would prohibit smoking cigarettes within a specified distance of any playground in the Municipality of Anchorage while children are present (approved on April 9).

Daniels said people looking to quit using tobacco products can call 1-800-QUITNOW.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story incorrectly referred to the Father-Daughter Ball and Mother-Son Gala as fundraisers.

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